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Full text of "What is religion? and other student questions : talks to college students"

WHAT IS RELIGION?' 



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WHAT IS RELIGION? 

AND 

OTHER STUDENT QUESTIONS 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

AND 
OTHER STUDENT QUESTIONS 

Calftjf to College ^tutientjS 



By henry S. PRITCHETT 

PRESIDENT MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY 

1906 



COPYRIGHT 1906 BY HENRY S. PRITCHETT 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

Published February iQOb 



To 

The students whose friendship and 
fellowship form the inspi- 
ration of a college 
presidents 
life 



PREFACE 

The enormous change which has taken 
place during the last generation in the atti- 
tude of educated men toward the questions 
of formal religious authority and tradition 
is nowhere so evident as in the genera- 
tion now entering manhood. The college 
student of to-day has not in most cases 
had the formal religious training which his 
father received. He lacks the intimate 
knowledge of the Scriptures which all 
well-trained boys of the last generation 
had; traditional authority means less to 
him and he has grown up in an intel- 
lectual atmosphere in which the scientific 
generalizations of the last fifty years form 
a part of the e very-day philosophy of life. 
He is not less religious than his father 
was at his age nor less ready to think of 
service and of noble things ; but there are 

vii 



PREFACE 

fewer influences in his life to draw his 
attention to those everlasting questions 
which have to do with human aspira- 
tions and human destiny. His life is less 
rich in the things which create a religious 
sense. His danger is the same as that 
which confronts the American in all busi- 
ness life : that the pressure of the com- 
monplace and the utilitarian may crowd 
out the thought of the larger and deeper 
questions of philosophy, of religion, and of 
service. However narrow may have been 
the theology of the last century, the reli- 
gious training which went with it brought 
continually before men's minds the things 
which are spiritual and eternal. In the ad- 
justment of men's thoughts to the changes 
of the last half-century much has been done 
to impair the influence of the religious 
leadership which comes from systematic 
teaching and formal church organization. 
No one can be brought into close con- 
tact to-day with large bodies of students 
viii 



PREFACE 

— alert, clear-minded, enthusiastic young 
men — without a deep sense of the lack in 
their lives of spiritual and religious influ- 
ences. They are not less quick to respond 
to such influences than their fathers; but 
the old traditional voices of authority no 
longer appeal to them, and in the hurry 
of modern life the things which are tender 
and deep and spiritual seem to have less 
and less opportunity to be considered in 
comparison with the pressing occupations 
of the present. Men's souls are over- 
whelmed by the great current of the com- 
monplace, the material, the utilitarian, 
and the student is in that current. If his 
attention and his interest are to be drawn 
to higher things it must be through a lead- 
ership which faces frankly the philosophy 
of his time and which deals with the facts 
of science and of religion in a spirit of in- 
tellectual sincerity. No cold and formal 
rationalism will suffice, but a leadership 
which shall be tender, hopeful, spiritual, 
ix 



PREFACE 

and fearless ; in a word, a religious leader- 
ship, but one free of dogma. Whence 
such a leadership is to come is one of the 
difBcult questions which to-day confronts 
the church and humanity. 

The addresses here brought together 
arose out of questions coming to the front 
in the day by day college life. They were 
talks to different groups of students at 
various times and places, sometimes before 
a whole class, sometimes before smaller 
bodies. There are throughout expressions 
of a somewhat personal bearing, sentences 
addressed ad hominem. These have been 
left unchanged in the printed form, since 
they serve to explain, in a measure, the 
circumstances under which the talks were 

given. 

H. S. P. 

December, 1905. 



CONTENTS 

I. What is Truth ? l 

II. What is Religion? .... 29 

III. The Science of Religion . . 49 

IV. The Significance of Prayer . 77 
V. Ought a Religious Man to join 

A Church? 95 



I 

WHAT IS TRUTH? 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

** Truth is within ourselves : it takes no rise 
From outward things, whatever you may believe. 
There is an inmost centre in us all 
Where truth abides." Browning. 

I WELCOME these meetings where, as mem- 
bers of a brotherhood, we discuss frankly 
some of the larger philosophical ideas which 
interest the whole world. And this not 
simply for the reason that they bring me 
into a face-to-face relation with you, but 
also because these discussions serve to re- 
mind us that college life is a part of the 
life of the world, and not a life isolated 
from it. 

To-day I wish to speak to you concern- 
ing the relations of citizens to each other 
and concerning the guiding principle which 
ought to govern men, in order that these 
relations may be the best, not only for the 
3 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

individual, but for the State as well. And 
in the outset I remind you again that col- 
lege education, if it be really an education, 
ought to count in preparation for life, and 
that the college and the life you lead in it 
is a part of your life in the world. 

You will find, both in college and in 
that later life of which it is the beginning, 
that with larger opportunity and larger 
acquaintance you will be called upon to 
deal in greater and greater measure with 
questions which concern your social, polit- 
ical, and moral relations with other men. 

In what way, may I ask, does your edu- 
cation in science help to the adjustment of 
these relations, and is there in the study of 
science that which serves to fix a guiding 
principle of life and of conduct ? 

I believe that there is such a principle 
in the studies which you pursue. I go even 
farther and say frankly that, if your scien- 
tific studies furnish you no suggestions in 
these matters, if your education here does 
4 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

not connect itself with any philosophy of 
life and of conduct, if it has not strength- 
ened your moral purpose and helped also 
to clear your conception of truth and of 
duty, then you have caught only the husks 
of science, the grain has slipped through 
your fingers ; you have acquired, not edu- 
cation, but training. 

But in what way does scientific educa- 
tion minister to the right interpretation of 
our duties in the social order in which we 
find ourselves? 

Let us consider for a moment how the 
society which we know has come to exist, 
and how the characteristics of the individ- 
uals who compose it have been formed. 
For although, as Marcus Aurelius says, 
man is a social animal, nevertheless he 
became such only after a long and pain- 
ful history, and he brought into the so- 
cial order characteristics developed by 
ages of experience under different condi- 
tions. 

5 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

Our knowledge of man goes back to a 
period far distant, when he was a solitary 
animal ; when he fought day by day with 
other men and with the beasts of the field 
for life itself Gradually men became gre- 
garious, the family was merged into the 
tribe and the tribe into the nation, until, 
in the fullness of this twentieth century, 
all civilized mankind are bound together 
by ties of common interest and of com- 
mon sympathy. 

Primitive man lived in complete free- 
dom. He concerned himself with no 
thoughts of others. He recognized no 
responsibility for others. But, as society 
was slowly established, the individual ac- 
cepted certain limitations of his freedom 
for the sake of the common good. He 
assumed certain responsibilities which the 
social order entailed. As time went on 
the relations became more complex, and 
the lines of influence between man and 
man were enormously multiplied. Primi- 
6 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

tive man could be influenced at most by 
the one or two fellow-savages whom he 
met in his solitary wandering. The man 
who influences you or me most strongly 
may come from the other side of the world. 
Modern life has become exceedingly com- 
plex. No man lives to himself In one 
way or another he may influence the lives 
of a thousand men. 

In a society so constituted, made up of 
human beings who still retain the desire 
of individual liberty, in whom the long 
struggle for existence has implanted in 
each the passion to do the best for himself, 
how may the social order be maintained 
and individual freedom and individual 
efficiency be preserved? And in what 
way does a study of science minister to 
the maintenance of these relations? 

My answer to the question is this: 
The scientific method of study is charac- 
terized rather by a distinctive attitude of 
mind toward truth than by any new ma* 
7 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

chinery for collecting facts. The scientific 
method insists that the student approach a 
problem with open mind, that he accept 
the facts as they really exist, that he be 
satisfied with no half-way solution, and 
that, having found the truth, he follow it 
whithersoever it leads. 

To my thinking, the course which con- 
serves at once the social order and the 
freedom of the individual is to be found 
in a knowledge of the truth by the individ- 
ual citizen. And this knowledge of the 
truth in our social relations is to be had by 
use of the same method which we employ 
in seeking for scientific truth. I believe 
that the value of the citizen is measured 
by his ability to know the truth and to 
use it, and that his freedom is limited by 
this same ability. I am convinced that 
the process by which we acquire this abil- 
ity is the same whether the truth we seek 
refer to questions of science or to questions 
of morals. Science says to those who love 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

her, Know truth and follow it. In so 
doing you serve best your fellow-men and 
yourself. 

But I can understand the questions which 
such statements immediately raise in your 
minds. In science, you say, one can know 
the truth. In the chemical or in the phy- 
sical laboratory one can compare theory 
with exact tests, and know whether his 
results be true or not ; but one has no such 
criterion for judgment in social and moral 
questions. How is one to know the truth 
in such matters in order that he may fol- 
low it ? 

In the days of the Roman emperors the 
procurator of a certain conquered pro- 
vince in Asia Minor found before him two 
parties, each of whom claimed to repre- 
sent the truth. On the one side were the 
religious leaders of the province, earnest, 
narrow, confident that they were the di- 
vinely appointed guardians of truth. On 
the other side stood one accused by them 
9 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

of impiety, unbelief, and disregard of the 
law. But when the accused spoke, his plea 
for truth was so noble and so earnest that 
it aroused the attention of even the care- 
less and reckless procurator; and, as he 
looked in bewilderment from one to the 
other, he asked, half helplessly, " What is 
truth?" 

I can well imagine that many of you, 
coming as you do from distant homes to a 
strange city, taking up as you must new 
duties amid new surroundings, find your- 
selves constantly in the presence of new 
conceptions of duty concerning these mat- 
ters of every-day life. Some of the things 
which you have been taught to look upon 
as wrong you find done by those in whom 
you have confidence. Some of the things 
which you do are not in accord with the 
views of your companions. And as you 
observe this difference of opinion concern- 
ing those things which men consider right 
in their relations with other men, I can well 

10 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

imagine you must now and then ask your- 
self the question, What is truth and where 
am I to find it ? 

Now, I do not pretend to be able to tell 
you where the truth is. Perhaps my posi- 
tion is somewhat like that of the small 
Swiss whom I met on top of the Gemmi 
Pass, and of whom I asked the question, 
" Where is Kandersteg ? " " I don't know," 
said he, " but there is the road to it." And 
although each of us finds truth for himself, 
if he find it at all, nevertheless I may be 
able to point out some things which will 
mark the way to it, whether you take one 
path or another. 

In order that a man may reach truth, 
and having reached it make it effective, at 
least two qualities are necessary. One is 
what we call moral sense, earnestness of 
purpose, desire to do that which is true. 
The other is intellectual clearness, the 
ability to think. And the result which a 
man accomplishes is in large measure a 
II 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

function not of one but of both of these 
quaUties. 

You have in mechanics a formula for 
the momentum of a moving body. This 
momentum depends both upon the mass 
of the body and upon its velocity, and is 
equal to the product of the mass by the 
velocity. The momentum of a man in 
the social order in respect to truth is re- 
presented by a similar formula. His effi- 
ciency equals the moral purpose multiplied 
into the ability to think straight. 

The world's history is full of the story 
of men who had one of these qualities 
and who failed by lack of the other. It is 
difficult to say which has done the greater 
harm — blind devotion which would not 
see, or intelligence which saw, but lacked 
purpose and moral courage. Each has at 
one time or another filled the world with 
crime and suffering. 

The scene to which I have just referred 
furnishes an illustration of both these 

12 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

cases. The Jewish priests who clamored 
for the death of the Nazarene were no 
doubt in earnest in their belief that they 
represented truth, but they lacked the 
clearness of vision to recognize what truth 
was. Pilate, on the other hand, educated 
as a Roman knight, a man who knew the 
world, intellectually alert, saw clearly that 
this man who stood before him was no 
criminal, that his words had extraordinary 
depth and significance. In a weak way he 
sought to turn aside the judgment of the 
priests, but his lack of moral purpose 
made this effort fruitless in the face of the 
earnestness, perverted though it was, of 
the scribes and the Pharisees. 

And so, although no man can point out 
to you the way of truth, although that 
path is one which each one of you must 
find by his own effort, to walk in this path 
you will require not only moral earnest- 
ness, but intellectual clearness. One must 
not only feel right, he must think straight ; 
13 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

he must have not only sentiment, but 
sense. 

But you will say that even those who 
unite moral purpose with intellectual alert- 
ness, those who appeal both to conscience 
and to intellect, even those men do not 
agree in their attitude concerning what is 
true in moral and in social questions. 
These differences among honest, high- 
minded, and intelligent seekers after truth 
are discouraging and puzzling to the be- 
ginner. 

We have had in the daily press recently 
an illustration of such difference of view 
in a discussion concerning what is usually 
called the drink question. Now, no ear- 
nest and no clear-headed man can fail to 
recognize the misery and the crime which 
go with the misuse of alcoholic liquors ; 
but the discussion to which I refer brought 
forward at least three distinctive opinions 
as to the way in which this abuse should 
be dealt with. 

14 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

One group of men believed that all 
social drinking is wrong, and that such 
drinking should be prohibited by law, as 
other crimes are prohibited. A second 
group held that, while wine-drinking is in 
itself harmless, nevertheless the danger of 
misuse is so great that all good men ought 
to abstain from wine and discountenance 
its use by others. A third group took the 
ground that the question was one for each 
individual to settle for himself; that truth 
required the admission that a large num- 
ber of those who drink wine use it in a 
rational way; that temperance and truth 
lie along the same path; that the real 
lesson which mankind has to learn is the 
lesson of self-control and of rational living. 

It is not my purpose to discuss any of 
these views, all of which have been ear- 
nestly and conscientiously maintained. But 
the point to which I wish to call your 
attention is this. The question whether 
you accept one or another of these views 
15 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

is of comparatively small importance ; but 
it is of infinite importance to you that, in 
these and in similar questions, you find 
your own conception of the truth, as con- 
science and mind direct; and, having 
reached a result, that you have the courage 
to follow that conception whithersoever it 
leads. It means little for you to accept my 
view of truth or any other man's view of 
truth. It means everything to you to deter- 
mine out of an open heart and an alert 
mind your own conception of truth, and, 
having done this, to keep the courage of 
such conviction. And if your training in 
science is to have any deeper meaning, 
if it is to connect itself not only with the 
problem of making a living, but also with 
a real philosophy of life, then the habit 
of open-mindedness which you have been 
trained to use in science, this scientific 
method, as it is called, is also the attitude 
of mind in which you should approach all 
questions. 

i6 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

There is a feeling that too much truth 
is not a good thing, at least for men be- 
tween the ages of nineteen and twenty-four. 
And sometimes, when one's conceptions of 
truth, particularly in social and moral ques- 
tions, lead directly across the conventional 
and traditional lines, one is tempted to ask 
whether, after all, it is not better to fall in 
with the view of other men and travel their 
road. All men of serious purpose, whether 
their lives be passed in the public view or 
not, face this question at one time or an- 
other ; for all men who have earnestness 
and intelligence become leaders in greater 
or less degree. In such a moment of hesi- 
tation there is one voice which speaks down 
the centuries — the voice of one greater 
than Marcus Aurelius, greater than philo- 
sopher or poet or priest, whose utterance is 
so clear and so straightforward that it brings 
courage to doubting souls and shows the 
way for timid hearts. That voice says, 
" Know the truth, and the truth shall make 
17 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

you free." My brothers, there is no free- 
dom worth the having other than that free- 
dom which a man enters into when he 
follows truth as his own heart and his own 
mind enable him to see it. Know the truth, 
and, as the Master says, it shall make you 
free: free from discouragement and free 
from fear. For the real dragons that de- 
stroy men's souls are not food and drink, 
but the weakness which allows passion to 
become the master, not the slave, of the 
mind ; the selfishness which sees only per- 
sonal interest and personal gain ; the men- 
tal lethargy which accepts error rather 
than seek truth ; the lack of vision which 
fails to recognize the truth ; the lack of 
moral purpose to follow the truth when it 
is seen ; and the fear which turns aside or 
renders powerless the noblest purpose and 
the finest conception. 

There is another quality of the mind 
which ought also to enter into one's atti- 
tude toward truth, and which is character- 
i8 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

istic of the scientific spirit and of the 
scientific method ? This quality is toler- 
ance. For how strong soever one feels him- 
self to be in purpose, and how sure soever 
he may consider his conception, other men 
just as sincere, possibly as able, will discern 
truth in a diflferent direction and approach 
it by another path. No man, no party, no 
sect, and no religion has a divine monopoly 
either of truth itself or of the ways by which 
truth may be found. History is full of the 
story of those who parted, the one from 
the other, each to follow truth as he saw it, 
to find that their divergent paths came, in 
the end, to the same destination. 

A steamer which sails from San Francisco 
for Yokohama sets her course when she 
leaves the Golden Gate to follow the arc 
of a great circle, and plows her way sturdily, 
straight on through storm or sunshine to 
her destination. A sailing vessel setting out 
from the same port will sail first on one tack 
and then on another, and her path will be 
19 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

determined by the winds and currents. Yet 
each sails by the same compass and each 
comes in the end to the same port. 

It is in some such way that men with 
different training and different equipment 
arrive after all at the same truth by widely 
different paths, and after different expendi- 
ture of time and labor. The personal equa- 
tion enters into our judgment of truth as 
it does into all human thinking. It is no 
part of the scientific teaching to deny to 
another the same freedom in the search 
for truth which he himself claims. The 
scientific man of all others should be tol- 
erant. 

This does not mean that the scientific 
method excuses a man for his failure to use 
all the means in his power to come at the 
truth. It does not forgive a man when he 
seeks in a devious way that which he ought 
to reach by a direct road. It does not hesi- 
tate to criticise a man who embarks on a 
sailing vessel when he ought to go by 

20 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

Steamer. And above all it boldly opposes 
that which it conceives to be false. 

The principle that free expression of 
opinion is conceded to those who differ from 
the recognized authorities is a lesson which 
individuals and parties, societies and na- 
tions, have been slow to learn. This right, so 
far as social, political, and religious questions 
are concerned, is limited to-day by curious 
social and geographic lines. It is the boast 
of our Anglo-Saxon stock that political 
and religious freedom has found its fairest 
fruitage in Anglo-Saxon civilization. We 
who live under a regime which guarantees 
to each citizen freedom of thought and of 
speech do well to recall now and then the 
mistakes and the difficulties through which 
our fathers came to learn this lesson. It is a 
story full of the weaknesses and of the 
strength of humanity ; a story of progress 
step by step, with many halts and back- 
ward steps ; a story of cruelty and of devo- 
tion, of the blindness of the many and of 

21 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

the clear vision of the few; but a story 
always of human progress toward truth. 

For the desire to compel other men to 
accept one's own view of truth has been 
confined to no class and to no age. It has 
been a very human characteristic since the 
days when men lived in caves and dressed 
in skins. Kings and priests, having had 
most power in their hands, have had most 
opportunity to use the argument of force. 
Mahomet found that the sword was the 
surest argument to convert a stubborn con- 
vert, and doubtless he was thoroughly 
honest in his belief The priests who cru- 
cified Christ felt no doubt of their devotion 
to truth. A few centuries later those who 
called themselves followers of Christ found 
in their hands the power to persecute men 
for their opinions, and they did not hesi- 
tate to use it. As the Rev. John Cotton, 
in his controversy with Roger Williams, 
naively asserted, persecution is not wrong 
in itself " It is wicked," said he, " for 

22 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

falsehood to persecute truth, but it is the 
sacred duty of truth to persecute falsehood," 
and that teaching bore strange fruit for 
New England soil. 

Boston Common, scarce a stone's throw 
from this room, lies to-day white and fair 
under last night's snowfall. As we look 
upon it our memories go back to the days 
of 1775, and to those later scenes which 
preceded the Civil War. We think of 
Boston Common as sacred to liberty and 
to freedom and to the rights of man ; and 
I believe there is no spot on earth more 
truly dedicated to human freedom. Yet 
it has beheld other scenes than gatherings 
of indignant colonists or groups of patriot 
citizens anxious for their country's future. 
Our thoughts seldom go back to that 
October morning in 1659, when William 
Robinson, Marmaduke Stevenson, and 
Mary Dyer were led out on Boston Com- 
mon, to be hanged for teaching the doc- 
trines of the Quakers. It is not easy for us 
23 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

at this day to realize that men and women 
could be hanged on that free soil for reject- 
ing the doctrine of original sin and of the 
resurrection of the body, for denying the 
efficacy of baptism, and for asserting the 
absolute right of private judgment. And 
I remind you of this scene, not to compare 
our liberality with the narrowness of our 
fathers, but to call your attention to the 
fact that by their very earnestness of pur- 
pose and by their examination and discus- 
sion of religious questions the fathers found 
the path to truth, though long and rough ; 
persecution gave way to tolerance, and a 
colony founded to perpetuate a special 
view of divine truth became a State where 
any man may follow truth as his own heart 
and his own mind direct. And this ideal 
is, after all, that toward which great souls 
have labored in all ages. For this scientific 
method is no new invention of the nine- 
teenth century. The men who have led 
humanity have always been those who 
24 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

went forward with open hearts and with 
clear minds. For literature and science and 
politics and religion are not separate and 
distinct things, but only different parts of 
the same thing ; different paths by which 
men have sought after beauty and truth 
and righteousness — and these are one. 

Therefore let me hope that your study 
of science may mean something more to 
you than the facts of chemistry and of 
physics, which you learn in the laboratory. 
And, if I may be remembered by you 
when you have left these halls, I should 
choose to be remembered as one who taught 
you to approach the problems of your 
duties and relations with men in the same 
spirit in which you approach a problem in 
the laboratory — to be content with no lie, 
to rest in no evasion of the truth ; to work 
out, with the help of a tender conscience 
and an alert mind, your own conceptions 
of truth, and having reached such concep- 
tions, to follow them. And this is the 
25 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

answer to my question. We know truth 
when we reach it of our own effort and 
make it our truth. The polities and the 
religion which a man inherits, without 
thinking and without effort, count little 
toward his political and his spiritual de- 
velopment. Men differ, and will always 
differ, as to what truth is in this or in that 
matter, but that man finds truth who 
seeks it ; he serves truth who follows it 
fearlessly ; he serves his fellow-men who 
does all this with humility and with tol- 
erance. 

In the Church service of to-day is pre- 
served a short prayer : " Grant us in this 
world knowledge of thy truth, and in the 
world to come the life everlasting. " It has 
come down to us from one of the heroes 
of the early Church, him whom men called 
the golden-tongued ; one who, after a life 
of devotion and of courage and of toler- 
ance, died at the hands of ignorance and 
jealousy. The words of this prayer, few 
26 



WHAT IS TRUTH? 

and simple as they are, seem to me to ask 
all that a human soul can ask — in this 
world knowledge of God's truth, in the 
world to come the life everlasting. The 
educated man, the courageous man, the 
tolerant man has no other prayer. 



II 

WHAT IS RELIGION? 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

But this I confess unto thee, that after the way 
which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my 
fathers. — St. Paul. 

The most significant thought in all the 
universe is the idea of God and of our re- 
lation to Him. And yet I suppose there 
is no other fact of fundamental importance 
to which we bring so little of our individ- 
ual thinking. Most of us accept our con- 
ceptions of God and of this relation exactly 
as our fathers handed them down to us ; 
and if we begin to think for ourselves about 
them our very first feeling is one of unfaith- 
fulness and of disloyalty to the religion of 
our fathers. 

You have come from religious homes. 

Some of you have come for the first time 

to share the complexities of a city life. 

You are being trained under a system of 

31 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

thinking whose fundamental condition is 
intellectual sincerity. In your scientific 
work you are taught to question any result 
and to prove and test it. It is impossible 
that this training should not have its influ- 
ence upon your religious ideals if you think 
at all about such matters. A man said to 
me, some time ago, " I send my boy to a 
scientific school because I feel that here 
neither his religion nor his politics will be 
affected." I want to say to you that such 
a school does not exist, or, if it does exist, 
it ought not. A school whose intellec- 
tual current is so feeble that it does not set 
an intelligent man to thinking about his 
relations to God and to his country is no 
place to stimulate a man to right think- 
ing in chemistry or in physics or in mathe- 
matics. 

So surely as you and I live you will go 
from your work in college with your re- 
ligious conceptions changed by your life 
here ; it may be quickened and deepened, 
32 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

with new visions of truth and tenderer real- 
ization of your relations to other men, it 
may be with these conceptions repressed or 
distorted. As your study here is to give 
a new orientation with respect to truth, so 
also will it give you a new orientation with 
respect to that part of truth which has to 
do with religion. Now my concern is that 
in this inevitable search of your conceptions 
of truth, in this orientation of yourself with 
respect to all thinking, you should not lose 
perspective. The mistake which many a 
student makes is the conclusion that when 
he begins to do his own thinking he is no 
longer religious, no longer worshiping the 
God of his fathers. So closely is our social 
life interwoven with certain religious forms 
and customs that to change the one seems 
like breaking with all the rest. And yet it 
is true to-day that a vast body, perhaps the 
great majority, of college men worship the 
God of their fathers after the way which 
a generation ago was universally called 
33 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

heresy, and which is today considered by 
many devout men and women, some of 
them your fathers and your mothers, little 
better than heresy. Into this company of 
scientific men you have come. You are to 
learn their methods of reasoning, which are 
to become your methods. In the transfor- 
mation which this is sure to make in your 
intellectual life there is not the slightest 
danger to your religion or to religious truth. 
But there is danger that you may mistake 
for religion something which is not religion 
at all. There is a strong probability that 
you may think you no longer worship the 
God of your fathers when in fact you are 
worshiping Him more truthfully, more sin- 
cerely, more effectively than ever before. 
My brothers, there is no fact in all your 
life which is laden with such momentous 
consequences to you as the fact of religion ; 
therefore I have thought we could spend 
a half-hour in no better way at the begin- 
ning of a school year, and the beginning 
34 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

for many of you of your college life, than 
to ask ourselves frankly the question, What 
is religion? For if one has once clearly 
understood what religion is he has gone 
far on the path which takes him out of the 
region of doubts and apprehensions and 
uncertainties as to his own future and his 
relation to the religion of his fellow-men. 

And what is Religion as the man of 
science apprehends it? Stripped of all 
forms of conventional language, laying 
aside the imagery and the traditions which 
cling about the very word itself, religion 
presents itself to the man trained in science 
as nothing other than the divine life in 
the human soul, a life which manifests 
itself as all life manifests itself, by the 
growth which it brings forth, the divine 
flowers of the human heart, unselfishness, 
love, fearlessness, serenity, patience, ser- 
vice. 

I do not know that this brings to your 
mind any clear notion of what I am trying 
35 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

to describe. Let us see if I can illustrate 
what I mean by a comparison drawn from 
one of the most common of scientific con- 
ceptions ; for we men are so close to the 
relations and laws of matter that we are 
constantly forced to illustrate our spiritual 
conceptions by material processes. 

To us men living on the earth there 
is only one source of energy: the sun. 
Darken the sun and all motion would stop, 
all life would disappear, every engine 
would cease to turn, for the coal whose 
burning supplies the energy for the engine 
is itself only stored energy of the sun. 
And every mill, every engine, every dy- 
namo, every human body, merely trans- 
forms solar energy and turns it to the work 
of the world. 

Now according to the thinking of men 
of science, behind all nature, behind all 
life, behind all our visible forms of energy, 
stands an infinite and eternal energy whom 
we call God. Just as from the sun the 
36 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

energy of sunlight streams down upon the 
earth and is transformed into all living 
things, all forms of beauty, all flowers, all 
motions and all the life of our planet, so 
also the infinite and eternal energy radiates 
into all the universe, the source of all 
energy, whether of the body, of the mind, 
or of the spirit. Into every human soul 
this divine energy falls, just as the sun- 
light falls upon the flowers, and every 
human soul becomes a transformer of that 
energy. To receive this divine energy into 
one's soul and to transform it effectively 
into those spiritual forms which make for 
justice, mercy, joy, unselfishness, serenity 
of mind and of life, this is true religion. 
If in your heart this divine transformation 
is not going on day by day and year by 
year you are not a religious man, no mat- 
ter what your denominational connections 
or your formal professions may be. And 
if, on the other hand, in the soil of your 
heart these flowers are growing it matters 
37 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

very little whether you call yourself Catho- 
lic or Protestant, Episcopalian or Unita- 
rian, Methodist or Christian Scientist, or if 
you belong to no religious organization 
whatsoever. It is the life in your own soul 
which determines whether you are a reli- 
gious man, not the things that you believe 
or the name that you call yourself 

When the man of science who believes 
himself a religious man expresses this view 
of religion he finds himself confronted at 
once by at least three questions which are 
addressed to him by those who have ap- 
proached religion from the traditional 
historical pathway, questions which are 
accompanied oftentimes with uneasiness 
and apprehensions. For there are few 
human experiences more unsettling than 
those which an earnest man is called upon 
to undergo when he reviews the grounds 
of his own faith and that of his fathers. 

The questions are these : Does not 
such a conception take from religion the 

38 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

idea of a personal God and our relations 
as men with God our Father? Does it 
not wipe out the distinction between reli- 
gious and irreligious men, between good 
and wicked men, for as recipients of the 
divine energy would not all men be reli- 
gious men ? And if this conception is true 
what is the practical lesson which it brings 
concerning the method by which a human 
soul may become an efficient transformer 
of the divine energy and therefore truly 
religious? I shall try to answer these 
questions as frankly as they can be asked, 
and in the same spirit in which you are 
taught to face the conclusions of scientific 
truth in scientific problems. 

That this conception of religion and of 
God is inconsistent with the idea of a di- 
vine omnipotent person interfering directly 
in the affairs of our lives and of our world 
seems to me clear. The whole conception 
of the universe as the man of science sees 
it leads him to recognize the presence of 
39 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

God in the working of steadfast and un- 
changing laws. So far as his observations 
go, and so far as his researches into the his- 
tory of mankind throw light upon the 
question, no instance of such interference 
has ever been known. On the other hand, 
it is against his whole conception of the 
orderly and just development of the uni- 
verse. 

But this does not mean that God has in 
any way been changed by the change in 
our conception. Nor does it follow that, 
because we no longer think of Him as an 
omnipotent person, our relations with Him 
as the author and sustainer of the universe 
have been changed. Whether we think of 
God as the infinite and eternal energy 
which is immanent in the universe, or 
whether we think of Him as God our Fa- 
ther, it is still true that the way to know 
Him is the same, and that He is not far 
from every one of us. The method by 
which we are to establish and freshen our 
40 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

acquaintance, and even our communion 
with Him, is a matter in which each human 
soul must seek its own way, just as each 
human soul must be its own transformer of 
the divine energy. Of what this commun- 
ion is I shall hope to speak to you again. 
What I wish to say now is that the man 
who finds that his reason leads him to accept 
the scientific view of God does not truly 
accept a spiritual relationship less rich, less 
sincere, less helpful than he who thinks of 
God as a Father and as governing directly 
and arbitrarily the affairs of his own life 
and of his own world. Do not for one mo- 
ment let yourself believe that, if you find 
the traditional historical conception of re- 
ligion impossible, you have thereby ceased 
to be a religious man. Millions of devout 
souls have found Him, some with joy and 
some with pain, in the older way, and mil- 
lions more are to find Him, it may be with 
greater joy and less anguish of mind, with a 
heartier optimism, in the newer way. 
41 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

As to the second objection, that such a 
conception wipes out the distinction be- 
tween rehgious men and those who are not 
religious, my reply is that this distinction 
ought to be wiped out. There is no such 
dividing line amongst men. No greater 
wrong has been done to human kind than 
that by which a tradition has been gradu- 
ally built up, under which certain men are 
recognized as religious because of belong- 
ing to an organization, while others are 
counted as lacking religion because they 
do not belong to an organization. Into all 
human souls the divine energy is poured 
freely and impartially; all men are religious 
in greater or less degree, and no dividing 
line separates one from another. We are all 
God's creatures. 

As the radiant light of the sun falls upon 
our earth each plant takes up the waves of 
vibrant energy after its own ability. In one 
plant this energy is transformed into the 
beauty of the rose, in another into the fruit- 
42 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

fulness of the corn, and in still another this 
same energy is transmuted into the deadly 
poison of the nightshade. In some such 
way the spiritual energy radiated into each 
human soul is there transformed into hu- 
man character and human action. In one 
heart it is transmuted into justice and mercy 
and truth, in another into selfishness and 
greed and lust. Or, rather, in most human 
hearts these flowers of love and hate, of ser- 
vice and greed, of mercy and cruelty, grow 
side by side just as the rose and the strych- 
nos in the same soil are transmuters of the 
same sunlight. There is no human heart so 
black but that some flower of religion will 
grow there. 

I remember many years ago, in trying 
to find my way across a wild range of the 
Rocky Mountains, coming suddenly, near 
the summit, upon one of those singular 
and dangerous quagmires which are some- 
times found in that region even at high 
altitudes. The place seemed dry and safe 
43 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

enough to the eye, and presented the 
only ready egress from a mass of fallen 
timber. My horse hesitated to try it, for 
the mountain horses have good reason to 
dread those terrible black pits in which a 
man or an animal is sometimes entirely 
swallowed in an astonishingly brief time. 
On my urging, however, he plunged for- 
ward, and at the first step the dangerous 
nature of the bog was evident. In an 
instant he had sunk to the shoulders, and 
the treacherous character of the place could 
be seen by the shaking of the whole mass 
for yards around like a huge bowl of ugly 
black jelly. How he got out I have never 
quite known, but three minutes later we 
stood on firm ground, gazing down at the 
black muck of the pit from which we had 
just escaped. As I looked I saw grow- 
ing out of the very heart of the ruck a 
mountain flower, white, innocent, pure. It 
was a type of the human heart. For there 
is no human heart so black, so foul, so bar- 
44 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

ren, that in its soil some divine flower of 
love or devotion does not grow. There is 
no human soul which is so poor a trans- 
former that it does not convert into love 
or service some of the spiritual energy 
whose vibrations it receives. As we are all 
God's creatures, so truly are we all religious 
men. 

One word, finally, as to the practical in- 
fluence of this conception upon our indi- 
vidual lives. And here those who accept 
the scientific conception of the universe 
come back to join hands with those who 
are seeking God in another way. For 
whether one thinks of Him according to 
the one conception or the other, whether 
we think of Him as the infinite and eter- 
nal energy showing itself in all law, all 
order, all nature, or whether we think of 
Him as a Father, the way to Him is the 
same. There is no way to become a reli- 
gious man in the truest sense, there is no 
way to become efficient transformers of the 
45 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

divine energy except to open our hearts to 
those forces which make for righteousness, 
just as the flower turns to the sunlight. 
The scientific conception contains no new 
formula, it simply strips away many useless 
and obsolete ones. He who believes reli- 
gion to be the most profound interest for 
him will seek more and more to transmute 
the divine energy in which he shares into 
the things which make for spiritual life, and 
less of this energy into the things which are 
material. Back of our race stands the long 
story of the brute ancestry, from which we 
sprang, with its inherited tendency to self- 
ishness, to savagery, to greed. Very slowly 
has the spiritual energy, that which makes 
for righteousness, overcome in the human 
heart the ancestral tendencies. The best of 
human souls are far from being efficient 
transformers of the divine energy. Those 
of you who are electrical engineers will re- 
call how imperfect is the transformation of 
energy which is effected in the electric lamp. 
46 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

We bum coal to make steam, and the en- 
ergy thus generated by the heat is converted 
into mechanical energy, and this into elec- 
trical energy, and this finally into the energy 
of the light waves. But less than one per 
cent, of the original mechanical energy 
stored in the coal is reproduced in the en- 
ergy of the light rays. The rest has been 
dissipated or used up in heat which does 
no work. The transformation in our indi- 
vidual hearts is akin to this process. Each 
human soul takes up the spiritual energy 
which comes so generously to it and trans- 
forms the greater part of it into those things 
which serve self-interest, passion, luxury, 
the things of to-day. Only the remnant is 
left for transmutation into those things 
which are spiritual and eternal. And yet 
slowly, century by century, the race has 
risen in spiritual efficiency. And he who 
knows best the story of this rise will face 
with renewed courage the problem of his 
own spiritual life. The practical problem 
47 



WHAT IS RELIGION? 

to which you and I will address ourselves 
is the problem of greater spiritual efRciency, 
the problem of transforming more of the 
divine energy into unselfish things, and less 
into those things which are material. In 
proportion as we do this we become reli- 
gious men. And in just such proportion as 
we succeed, in just such proportion do we 
realize that we are coming into relations 
with that God whom our fathers worshiped, 
even though we do this after the way 
which they called heresy. And the man 
who has come to a realization of this in his 
own heart and soul has already ceased to 
fear that he has lost his religion, or that he 
ever can lose it. 



Ill 

THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

" I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of 
Heaven and Earth." — The Apostles' Creed. 

One of the singular facts in the history of 
mankind is that the questions which have 
divided men in religious matters have been 
in nearly all cases questions about the 
science of religion, about the formulse of 
faith, about the authority of religious 
organization, not questions about religion 
itself And even in our day it is contin- 
ually necessary to draw attention to the 
difference between religion and the efforts 
which men have made to formulate it. 

Some time ago I passed through a 
chemical laboratory where a teacher was 
explaining to a class a common chemical 
reaction. The reaction itself was going on 
in a retort on the table, while on the black- 
board was written the conventional for- 
51 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

mula which in the science of chemistry is 
used to describe the reaction. It so hap- 
pened that the instructor had made a mis- 
take in writing the formula; instead of 
CO, he had written CO3. But this made 
not the slightest difference in the reaction 
which was going on in the flask. 

Now the science of religion, which we 
call theology, has some such relation to 
religion itself as the chemical formula has 
to the actual chemical reaction ; some such 
relation as the science of botany has to the 
living flowers ; some such relation as the 
science of astronomy has to the everlasting 
stars. This science of religion is impor- 
tant. It is of tremendous significance to 
the race and to the individual that we 
should formulate clearly and fairly our 
thinking with respect to God and the life 
of man with Him, but this science is of 
very small importance in comparison with 
the life itself And it is of the greatest 
moment that you distinguish between 
52 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

religion, which is the divine life in the 
soul of man, and theology, which is merely 
the attempt to formulate our thinking 
with respect to that life. The great reli- 
gious quarrels which have rent the world 
have come in most cases from the attempt 
of men to impose upon other men, not 
their religion, but their science of religion. 
The student of science who concerns 
himself with any thoughtful philosophy 
of life will not only question himself as 
to the religion in his own heart, but he 
will desire to know the scientific form of 
thinking with respect to religion. At the 
beginning of any serious study of the 
matter there arises a fundamental question. 
Has the thinking of scholars so far crys- 
tallized as to give a fair groundwork of 
scientific truth which expresses the experi- 
ence and observation of men in regard to 
religion? Is theology a science, in other 
words, in the sense in which we use that 
word in speaking of other sciences ? 
53 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

As one studies the history of the Chris- 
tian Church he finds that at various epochs 
in its history and by various bodies of men 
efforts have been made to reduce to defi- 
nite form the conclusions of men concern- 
ing religion. Amongst the most famous 
of these are the Nicene and the Apostles' 
Creeds, both of the fourth century, the 
Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of 
England in 1563, the Westminster Con- 
fession of Faith of 1647, ^^^ expression of 
the belief of the Presbyterian Church, and 
the Twenty-five Articles of the Methodist 
Church. These are some of the formulae 
which have been devised by men to ex- 
plain their religious thinking. They belong 
to the science of religion. 

The student of science is early brought 
to understand that the term science is used 
in widely different senses. Sometimes it is 
qualified by the word exact, as indicating 
a science in which the laws of the pheno- 
mena are so relatively simple and so easy 
54 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

of mathematical demonstration that the 
problems of the science may be solved 
with certainty and exactness. For exam- 
ple, in the science of astronomy the laws 
and the phenomena of planetary motion 
are so completely known that they may 
be made the subject of exact calculation, 
and two astronomers with the same data 
will eventually reach the same conclusion. 
A man's results may be for the moment 
unlike those of his fellow workers, but in 
such cases differences of opinion are easily 
adjusted. A renewed testing of observa- 
tions or of reasoning process will show 
that somebody was in error. 

Again we use the word science to indi- 
cate the collection and correlation of facts 
with regard to a certain set of related phe- 
nomena when knowledge of their funda- 
mental laws is still wanting. Meteorology, 
for instance, is hardly more than a vast 
collection of undigested observations, from 
which a few generalizations have been 
55 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

drawn. The difficulty of exact prediction 
here arises wholly from the extent and 
complexity of the facts. The day is cer- 
tainly far distant when meteorology will 
become a science in the same sense as 
astronomy or chemistry, but in theory 
there is no reason why that day should 
not come. 

Finally, the word science is used to cover 
certain fields of study where the facts are 
not only complicated but dependent upon 
the individual point of view. Thus in the 
study of politics all the data are affected 
by the personal relations and prejudices of 
those who furnish them. 

Now it requires little consideration to 
show that the science of religion is not an 
exact science. The chemist, whether he be 
English, Italian, or Russian, will describe 
a chemical reaction by the same formula. 
The theologians of England, of Italy, and 
of Russia will use vastly different formulae 
in their respective sciences of religion. The 
56 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

science of religion can scarcely be com- 
pared to meteorology (which is a science 
in the forming), because in religion the hu- 
man element enters so powerfully. It is 
more akin to the group of sciences which 
deal with the relations of men with each 
other, the social and political sciences. 
The formulation of thought in religious 
science has gone on, at least until a very 
recent day, under a pressure unknown in 
any other science : that is, the pressure of 
a belief on the part of nearly every worker 
in the science that his own soul's salvation 
was intimately connected with the formula 
which he devised and advocated. The dis- 
coveries and the formulae of the great 
scientists like Newton or Pasteur come to 
us in a form in which any follower who 
desires to do so may repeat and verify the 
steps. The work of the great theologians 
like Athanasius and Augustine has more 
resemblance to that of the great artists : 
visions of truth as seen by great souls, but 
57 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

subjective, not such as may be tested and 
proven by those who follow. 

Let us consider for a moment the oldest 
of these efforts to which I have referred, 
the Apostles' Creed, which is to-day the 
formula of Christendom. 

The noble sentences of this creed have 
been in the mouths of most of us from our 
earliest recollections. It is interwoven with 
our tenderest memories. And yet it is es- 
sentially a scientific rather than a religious 
paper, for it undertakes to give in formal 
specific terms the results of man's thinking 
with respect to God and the relations of 
men with Him. Perhaps there are few of 
us who are equipped to examine this paper 
as a scientific formula. We may at least 
note that the fundamental conception con- 
tained in the first words of the creed is not 
very far away from the scientific conception 
of to-day. " I believe in God, the Father 
Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth," 
is an expression of man's experience and 

58 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

conviction which is not so very different 
from Mr. Herbert Spencer's generalization 
that "We are ever in the presence of an 
infinite and eternal energy from which all 
things proceed." It is true that in the first 
expression God is referred to as a Father, 
but the idea of an Almighty Father, the 
Maker of the Universe, is scarcely less im- 
personal than that of the infinite source of 
all our thoughts and energies. This gen- 
eralization that God exists and that in Him 
we live and move and have our being is, 
I believe, as truly the expression of the 
scientific thought of to-day as it was of the 
scientific thought of the fourth century. 

Does the same statement hold of the 
other articles of this creed ? Can the man 
of science accept them as well ? If we 
agree that religion is a divine life in the 
human soul, is that life dependent upon 
the acceptance of these beliefs ? Does our 
adherence to the doctrine of the Trinity or 
the remission of sins or the resurrection of 
59 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

the body freshen that life and cause it to 
blossom into the fruits of love and mercy 
and service ? In a word, is an acceptance 
of these doctrines of the creed a necessary 
or important part of religion ? 

All men who study and read will find 
these questions at some time or another 
lying squarely across the path of their in- 
tellectual growth. Some go around them, 
some rush at them as if to sweep them 
down, some answer them with searchings 
of heart. There is the youth who means 
as yet to evade moral issues. He has some- 
where heard that the doctrines of the church 
have been entirely disposed of by some- 
body, and he welcomes an attack on the 
conventional theology. He is ready to dis- 
miss all such questions as obsolete. There 
is the serious man — he may be a scien- 
tific man, or at least a scientific man in the 
making — who believes that much of the 
older theology is out of date, but who feels 
genuine uneasiness at the fear that there 
60 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

may be a practical mistake in the modem 
criticism or a real loss to the world by re- 
moving restraints which have made for 
righteousness. And there is the man who 
accepts more or less firmly the formula of 
the creed, but who wishes to be fair. He 
deplores modern unbelief, but recognizes 
it as an apparently necessary danger of any 
sort of higher education, and asks only 
what the higher education has to offer in 
return for the old faith. To him the scien- 
tific conception of God as the infinite and 
eternal energy seems vague and shadowy 
in comparison with his thought of God as 
a Heavenly Father. The statement that 
religion is to be Uved by opening our 
hearts to the divine energy seems to him a 
very indistinct and hesitating voice along- 
side the words, " I believe in the Holy 
Catholic Church, the forgiveness of sins, 
and the life everlasting." Are we to throw 
away, he asks, these definite beliefs of two 
thousand years and receive in return only 
6i 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

the vague conception of a power behind 
nature and a still more indistinct direction 
of the way by which we are to find Him ? 
To these questionings and anxieties the 
scientific seeker for truth can perhaps give 
no answer which will be satisfactory to all. 
The best he can do is to make clear his 
own ground and to do this with full respect 
for the faith of others and due regard to his 
own limitations. He must recognize, too, 
that notwithstanding the fact that the creed 
is essentially a scientific paper prepared by 
experts after long discussions and many 
compromises, its significance as a scientific 
formula was soon overshadowed by the 
influence which it came to have over the 
hearts of men. The place which it fills to- 
day has little to do with its scientific origin. 
As we repeat the words it is not of their 
scientific value or even of their truthfulness 
that we concern ourselves. Not one in a 
thousand of us has spent an hour's thought 
on the doctrine of the Trinity or the remis- 
62 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

sion of sins or the resurrection of the body. 
The words are precious to us from their 
associations with solemn and tender scenes 
of our lives, from their suggestions of a 
Saviour of the world and the hope and com- 
fort of a better life. Our hearts turn gladly 
from the somewhat cold scientific words 
of the first sentence to the intensely human 
and sympathetic figure of Christ, and we 
realize that it is through our emotions that 
this venerated creed touches us. It is this 
precious freightage of the traditions, the 
hopes, the longings of twenty centuries 
of which one must think if he is to sweep 
away the dogmas of the church as non- 
essentials. It is this consideration which 
makes the answers to the questions I have 
proposed equally difficult for the religious 
man who wishes to be fair-minded, whether 
he adhere to the old faith or to the new, 
whether his science be theology or physics. 
Men's intellectual differences generally 
come, not from differences in intellectual 

63 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

capacity, but from difference in the point 
of view ; and nothing is more difficult for 
any of us than to get a fair perspective from 
another man's viewpoint. The more sure 
one is of his own view of truth the less 
likely is he to estimate fairly the attempt 
of another who is judging the same set of 
facts from another point of observation. 
And perhaps nowhere have good and true 
men shown such disregard of other men's 
intellectual and spiritual rights (if one may 
use that term) as in their discussions con- 
cerning the formulse and philosophy of 
religion ; for these discussions have rarely 
been held regarding religion itself 

It is generally only by some chance ex- 
pression that we are brought to realize how 
completely we neglect at times the stand- 
point of our friend in trying to impress 
upon him our own view of truth. I shall 
never forget the impression made upon me 
by the words of a very intelligent oriental 
in one of the East India islands, himself a 
64 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

teacher, concerning an exposition of reli- 
gion which he had just heard from a Euro- 
pean. Speaking without bitterness but 
with feehng he said, " You gentlemen from 
Europe and America invite us to accept 
your religion, but you preface your invi- 
tation with the extraordinary condition 
that we must first forget the long religious 
history of our own race and the virtues 
which we as a people have cultivated in 
thousands of years of slow progress." '' The 
position which you assume toward us," 
said he, " is very like that taken by an aged 
student of mine, for with us it is not un- 
common to find students who have passed 
their threescore and ten. This man had 
labored for many years over a theory of the 
planetary motions, and had finally brought 
his theory, as he thought, to perfection, and 
felt it a duty to give it to the world. To 
him it stood for truth. He began his ex- 
planation by this preliminary statement: 
'Before you can understand my theory 
6i 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

you must divest yourself of all the con- 
ceptions which your mathematical train- 
ing has given you.' ' Alas/ said I, ' what 
you ask is impossible, and beside, if I 
should do this, how can I test the correct- 
ness of your theory ? ' Would it not be 
possible for you Europeans to invite us 
into your religious fellowship without ask- 
ing us to throw away all that we have 
learned from centuries of slow tuition under 
the same God who rules in Europe and 
America ? " I never before realized what 
it implied when one asks a man to aban- 
don the religion of his race to accept that 
of another. The sincere believer in the 
formulae of the older Christian faith doubt- 
less feels some such protest rising in his 
heart, even if unexpressed, when he is 
asked to think of religion as a simple life 
of the soul, independent of all formulae and 
all creeds and all organizations. The two 
points of view are widely different. Let us 
try briefly to state them. 
66 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

Both the older science of theology and 
the modern science of evolution recognize 
back of nature a governing and controlling 
power which makes for righteousness and 
which we call God ; but the former repre- 
sented Him to men as a divine person 
ruling the universe by arbitrary acts and 
changing the circumstances of our lives at 
the request or need of his children, while 
the latter discerns in Him the sustainer 
of the universe and the giver of all our 
life, but ever working through steadfast 
and unchangeable laws. 

The philosophy of the old theology 
looked upon man as a creature fallen from 
a high estate, morally diseased and only to 
be restored to companionship with God by 
the fulfillment of a certain plan devised for 
that purpose. The provisions of this plan 
are contained in the creeds : the sacrifice 
of the Saviour, his resurrection, his judg- 
ment, the Church, the remission of sins, 
the life hereafter. It is true also that the 

67 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

science of theology recognized what was 
called natural religion, but only in a second- 
ary sense. 

The philosophy of modem science con- 
templates the race from an entirely differ- 
ent point of view. It looks upon man as 
occupying a place in nature to which he 
has come by many ages of normal devel- 
opment. Behind him lie a brute ancestry, 
ages of war for existence, centuries of slow 
progress which have left their imprint in 
his physical and moral constitution; but 
his face is turned toward the light, and his 
progress is upward. 

" Man as yet is being made, and ere the crowning Age 

of ages, 
Shall not ceon after ason pass and touch him into 

shape? '' 

With this effort to make clear the differ- 
ences in the points of view, I think the 
attitude of the general body of scientific 
men toward the formulae of the creed may 
be expressed in some such words as these, 
68 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

so far as one of limited scientific experience 
may hope to voice them. 

First of all, the man of science is en- 
gaged in no propaganda to uproot the 
faith or the convictions of other men, 
whether young or old. Looking upon 
religion as a life in the individual soul, he 
is happy to see that life made fruitful by 
any means which the individual finds to 
nourish it. For himself he must regard 
that life as a very different thing from the 
formulae which are intended to define it; 
and, if he examine these formulae at all, he 
must apply to them the same tests which 
he would apply in any other study, and 
he must be satisfied to go only so fast 
and so far as he can be sure of the truth. 
Though science has no specifics for man's 
spiritual salvation, it looks with perfect 
faith into the future, in the belief that the 
progress of the race is sure. It does not 
undertake to answer the questions of the 
future which are beyond our ken, but it 
69 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

points all men joyfully toward a life with 
God as the normal life. 

It is perhaps here that the religious man 
of science parts company with the religious 
man of creed, — in the different estimate 
which he puts upon truth for its own sake. 
The result which he is able to accept may 
seem less definite, perhaps less comforting 
to the hope, but his training leads him to 
believe that nothing is worth while but the 
truth, and that its pursuit and possession 
form in the end their own exceeding great 
reward. He has a faith quite as sincere, 
quite as earnest, as any other believer, 
that along this road of truth-seeking, of 
open-mindedness, of modest study, lie that 
sincerity, that discipline, that clear vision 
which in the end lead to justice and mercy 
and unselfishness ; which lead, in a word, 
to the growth in the soul of that life which 
is religion. It is a constructive, not a de- 
structive faith. To such a man there is in- 
finite comfort and steadying power in the 
70 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

thought that the new faith, if it does not 
see so far as the old, at least looks up to 
God with clear eyes. Unable to read the 
problems of the future fully, it undertakes 
to give no doubtful solution, but trusts that 
solution without fear to the power which 
has brought us up out of the baser life and 
set our faces toward the light. The man 
of science is profoundly hopeful. He be- 
lieves in God, he believes also in man and 
his destiny. His faith is that voiced by 
Tennyson in the lines : — 

**I stretch faint hands of faith and hope 
And gather dust and chaiF and call 
To what I feel is Lord of All, 
And faintly trust the larger hope." 

One cannot overlook the fact that the 
very definiteness of the formulse of the 
older creeds of Christendom appeals to 
something universal in human nature. A 
clear statement will nearly always pass for 
a true one. Men instinctively reach out 
for specifics, and nowhere so eagerly as 
71 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

in those things which pertain to health, 
whether of the body or of the soul. Yet 
there are few specifics in all nature, either 
for bodily or spiritual health. The ordi- 
nary human being, to live in health, must 
depend not upon specific medicines but 
upon leading a normal life in accordance 
with the laws of nature. He must open 
his lungs to the fresh air, take into his 
stomach wholesome food, and lead a ra- 
tional life. Health follows as a result of 
the laws of physical being with which the 
individual has put himself in accord ; and 
yet the advice to lead wholesome lives, to 
eat simple food, to breathe fresh air, seems 
so indefinite that we generally fail to dis- 
cipline ourselves to undertake these things. 
In the same way the invitation to spiritual 
health, to open one's heart to the things 
that make for righteousness, for unselfish- 
ness, for service, seems very indefinite. It 
is far easier and simpler to discipline our 
minds to the defense or even to the ac- 
72 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

ceptance of some formula or of some 
specific dogma. 

In the case of both the physical and the 
spiritual health-seeking it is a life to 
which the man is called : a day by day 
submission of his body and of his soul to 
the laws of the universe in which he finds 
himself, not a spasmodic, isolated effort. 
It is at this point that we find it hard to 
overcome the inertia of society, the inbred 
selfishness of our race, the pleasure of the 
hour. And it is always so much easier to 
point the way to such a life than to lead 
it ; so much easier to try a specific for dis- 
ease than to follow the laws of health ; so 
much pleasanter to our self-complacency 
to talk about the religious life than to 
live it. 

After all, the practical problem is the 
same to every man, whatever his philo- 
sophy of life. The difficulties of natural 
depravity are exactly the same as those of 
the brute inheritance. The chemical reac- 
73 



THE SCIENGE OF RELIGION 

tion in the retort is the same, whichever 
formula is used. Whether one accept the 
one hypothesis or the other, the problem 
of the individual man is to adjust himself 
to the world in which he lives, to lay hold 
of the spiritual energy which is poured 
out upon him, to find his own way to 
God and to a life with Him. 

And now in closing let me say one 
word in the direction in which I began. I 
have spoken to you in regard to the science 
of religion, not because I thought you 
were interested in theology, but because I 
know from daily experience that you are 
constantly mistaking theology for religion, 
constantly confusing the science of reli- 
gion with the divine life in the human 
soul, which is religion. It is as if a man 
mistook the chemical formula for the 
actual chemical reaction, the science of 
botany for the flowers, the science of as- 
tronomy for the stars. I have spoken in 
this way, not because I do not think a 
74 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

science of religion is important ; I believe 
it is profoundly important, if it be a true 
science; but because I think the science 
is infinitely less important than the thing 
itself Now to know God in your own 
soul and to develop from that knowledge 
the fruits of the spirit is religion. If in 
doing this you find comfort and strength 
and joy in a belief in the formulae of any 
body of Christians, in God's name use 
these formulae and these beliefs to the ut- 
most. But if, on the other hand, you find 
yourself stopped by the creeds or the tra- 
ditions of the body of religious men with 
whom you are associated, do not for one 
moment allow yourself to think that you 
have lost your religion. These things be- 
long not to religion, but to the science of 
religion, a science which was framed in 
the early history of civilization and which 
has never yet caught up with other sciences. 
The one important thing for any human 
being is to develop in his own soul, 
75 



THE SCIENCE OF RELIGION 

heartily, joyfully, sincerely, the life which 
blossoms into forgetfulness of self and ser- 
vice of men, in courage and mercy and 
patience and serenity of mind. For these 
are the fruits of true religion. And when 
we strive to do this we approximate ever 
closer to the life of him our elder brother, 
Jesus Christ 



76 



IV 

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF 
PRAYER 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF 
PRAYER 

** Was die innere Stimme spricht. 
Das tauscht die hoffende Seele nicht.'* 

Schiller. 

From the earliest history of our race men 
have prayed. Our oldest records concern 
themselves with these efforts of men to 
come in touch consciously with God. Dur- 
ing this last generation, when our concep- 
tions of the order and progress of the 
universe have undergone great changes, 
men have still prayed. In these prayers, 
reaching from the earliest human history 
until to-day, may be traced the gradual un- 
folding of our conception of God and our 
relation to Him. The nature of a man's 
prayer will inevitably depend on his con- 
ception of God. The scientifically trained 
79 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAYER 

mind of the twentieth century, seeing in 
the universe of to-day the evidences of a 
slow and gradual progression in accordance 
with unchangeable laws, and looking up to 
God as an infinite and eternal power back 
of all nature and all law, will have a different 
conception of what prayer means from that 
of the man whose spiritual training and ex- 
pression lead him to think of God as a di- 
vine person dealing as an omnipotent father 
with his children and influenced by their 
requests. In view of this changed concep- 
tion many devout souls ask anxiously. Is 
not this scientific conception of God and 
of nature inconsistent with the idea of per- 
sonal relation with Him ? Granting the 
new form of faith, may a man still pray, 
and, if so, in what sense ? 

Like other fundamental questions of hu- 
man experience, this one reaches back to 
many long-distant causes and influences. 
To answer it one must first know what 
prayer is, and what it has meant to men of 
80 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAYER 

older time as well as to those of our own 
day. 

In no way have men shown their ideas 
of our relation with the Infinite so clearly 
as in their prayers. Marcus Aurelius An- 
toninus, a Roman Emperor and a Stoic 
philosopher, and one of the greatest of 
human souls, gives in these words his con- 
ception of prayer : A prayer of the Athe- 
nians — " Rain, rain, O dear Zeus, down 
on the plowed fields of the Athenians and 
on the plains." '' In truth," writes Aure- 
lius, " we ought not to pray at all, or we 
ought to pray in this simple and noble 
fashion." 

A prayer of Jesus : " Father, all things 
are possible unto thee ; take away this cup 
from me : nevertheless, not what I will, but 
what thou wilt." 

A prayer of St. Chrysostom, one of 

the Greek fathers of the fourth century : 

" Grant us in this world knowledge of thy 

truth, in the world to come life everlasting." 

8i 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAYER 

These three prayers indicate in the form 
and character of their petitions three great 
steps which humanity has taken in its ef- 
fort to know and to come in touch with God. 
The first reflects the life and the intellec- 
tual attitude of the highest philosophy of 
the ancient civilization, an attitude which 
was calculated to show not so much the 
goodness of the gods as the inherent dig- 
nity of man. The Stoic philosopher, noble, 
dignified, just, appealed to the gods as 
rulers of the world for that which he felt to 
be justly due to men, but he endured the 
things the gods sent with equal calmness, 
whether they were good or ill. Such a 
prayer argued a relation with the gods at 
once personal and impersonal : personal in 
the sense of the direct action of the gods 
upon human affairs, impersonal in the ab- 
sence of any definite conviction of their 
justice and mercy. Such a prayer bespoke 
a soul which stood fearlessly before God, 
conscious of its own rectitude and willing 
82 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAYER 

to submit to the decrees of the divine 
power, but neither asking nor expecting 
the support and sustenance of that faith 
which looks upon God as a kindly and 
loving father. 

That which is absent in the prayer of the 
Stoic is found, as it is found nowhere else, 
in the prayers of Jesus. Here speaks a soul 
conscious of a life day by day and hour by 
hour with a Heavenly Father. Every word 
and act and hope is permeated by that con- 
scious relationship, and he prays to this 
Father as one who can not only sustain and 
help, but also take upon himself the ad- 
justment of every human circumstance 
which the complexities of life present. A 
loving, all-powerful Heavenly Father, not 
only immanent in the universe and in the 
lives and acts of men, but ready also at the 
prayer of His children to change these laws 
and processes to compass their well-being : 
these are the relations and the conceptions 
called up by the prayer of the Son of Man. 

83 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAYER 

The words of the Greek father suggest 
a still different conception and a different 
relation. He lived in a day when the 
Christian faith had already in great mea- 
sure supplanted Greek and Roman philo- 
sophy in the hearts of men. A Roman 
emperor had become a Christian and the 
feeble organization which had started amid 
such humble surroundings three hundred 
years before had begun to lay its hands on 
the government of Europe. But in the 
very days of power doubts had come. Men 
had begun to differ in their interpretations 
of the complicated doctrine of salvation 
which had been built up under the earlier 
fathers. To be sure, the great Council of 
Nice had been called together in order to 
quiet these differences and to furnish a 
definite creed of faith which should be uni- 
form and consistent for all Christians. But 
this creed had been reached only after the 
most bitter contest, and its very language 
reflected the stress under which it was 
84 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAYER 

framed. Learned and devout men held 
widely divergent views concerning impor- 
tant matters of belief In a word, the dif- 
ferences which present themselves when 
different human intellects with varying abil- 
ities and varying prejudices study obscure 
problems were pressing hard upon the 
souls of men. 

A condition of unrest, of questioning, 
existed approximating that of to-day ; a 
condition which was not to recur for many 
centuries, for intellectual differences were 
quickly crushed into uniformity under the 
iron hand of authority. Into the prayer of 
that day comes a questioning note. Not 
earthly help or the intervention of the 
Heavenly Father is asked, but knowledge 
of God's truth. It is in some such way as 
this that the scientific mind prays to-day : 
it asks in this world knowledge of God's 
truth, resting sure that with this knowledge 
all other problems are resolved. 

Does this conception of God as the in- 
85 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAYER 

finite power in the universe, immanent in 
all life and all nature but working through 
law, not under the action of human-like 
motives and purposes, make such a prayer 
less possible, less helpful, less needful ? 

These three prayers and all others which 
are uttered in the privacy of a man's own 
soul are efforts to come into conscious re- 
lations with God. He who really prays has 
crossed the threshold of spiritual conscious- 
ness and come into a higher relation with 
the Infinite. For, whether we look up to 
God as a person or whether we regard Him 
as the infinite source of life working through 
everlasting laws, our touch with Him must 
come through our own consciousness : and 
it is through this higher spiritual conscious- 
ness that we reach Him. The great souls 
of earth have all come to great spiritual 
truth through entering into this higher con- 
sciousness of the soul. Socrates speaks of 
it as the " daemon " (a spirit within one) ; 
Jesus as '' the kingdom within you ; " St. 
86 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAYER 

Paul as the " inner man." In a word, 
whether we have the one or the other 
philosophy about God, whether we accept 
the one view or the other of His relation to 
us, we only enter into conscious relations 
with Him when we cross the threshold of 
our own spiritual consciousness. Men may 
be religious, they may be happy, they may 
be useful, and yet never rise into this spirit- 
ual consciousness, never pray in this sense. 
Let us try to illustrate. For a long time 
the world looked upon light as a substance 
simple in its nature. We know now that 
light is composite, and that it is the result 
of vibrations from the source of all our phy- 
sical energy, the sun. These vibrations are 
brought to us in the form of waves in the 
ether which fills all space, and their effect 
on our eyes will vary with the length of the 
waves and the consequent rapidity with 
which they reach our eyes. When the 
ether waves are fifty thousand to the inch 
they make upon our eyes the impression 

87 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAYER 

of violet light; when they run about thirty- 
thousand to the inch they produce the im- 
pression of red light ; and all our sensa- 
tions of color lie between these two limits. 
Waves slower than the red and faster than 
the violet produce no effect on the eye. 
And yet we know that there are vibrations 
which lie below the red and above the vio- 
let which, falling upon the eye, give no 
vision, and are yet full of energy. Some 
such analogy holds in our minds. Our con- 
scious every-day relations lie within a lim- 
ited range. That which we see and recog- 
nize with our senses and which forms the 
bulk of our every-day experiences does not 
include all the spiritual energy of which 
the soul is capable. Below the threshold 
of our ordinary consciousness, as we well 
know, lies a consciousness of another sort, 
of which we know little, such as the con- 
sciousness of sleep, for example. Just so, 
also, above the ordinary every-day con- 
sciousness lies a superlintral region of the 
88 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAYER 

human soul, like the ultra-violet part of 
the color spectrum. Into this higher spir- 
itual consciousness we rise only by that 
supreme effort of the soul by which a man 
may come to know his own soul's better 
self and the best to which that soul may 
aspire. In doing this he draws near to the 
author and ruler of the universe, whether 
his philosophy of life teaches him to look 
upon that author and ruler in the personal 
or the impersonal way. Whatever our phi- 
losophy of the universe, our way of know- 
ing God is the same : by the development 
of a spiritual consciousness, by so training 
our own hearts and minds as to raise up 
within us a new man ; by fearlessly facing 
our own souls and so knowing ourselves 
as to grow into that spiritual power which 
may bring us into contact with Him. To 
do this is to pray in the highest sense. 

This conception of the inner man, or, 
as Schiller has called it, the inner voice, is 
almost as old as our thinking. Socrates, 
89 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAYER 

Jesus, St. Paul, Marcus Aurelius, all great 
souls who have thought deeply on the 
problems of religious development have 
come back to it again and again. It con- 
tains the essence of any religion which is 
to deal with the mind, the heart, and the 
moral life. Does the scientific spirit tend 
to develop this deeper consciousness, this 
inner voice? 

I believe profoundly that it does. More 
than this, I beheve that, amid the rush of 
our modern Hfe, amid the distractions of 
incessant occupation, in the confusion 
of men's minds concerning right and 
wrong, the spirit of scientific truth-seeking 
is the very note which the inner voice 
most needs to sound, and which we men 
of to-day are prone to neglect. 

We have become accustomed in these 
last years to a measure of personal and 
official dishonesty which is utterly de- 
moralizing. Well-meaning men go wrong 
morally, in their intellectual judgments, in 
90 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAYER 

practical matters, and they excuse them- 
selves for a refusal to listen to the inner 
voice on the ground, " What I have done 
is as nearly right as was necessary." These 
moral compromises form the cogs in the 
machinery which connect good men with 
worse, and it is astonishing to find how 
simple is the machinery and how few links 
are needed to reach from the honest busi- 
ness man to the dishonest promoter, from 
the high-minded public officer to the polit- 
ical grafter. Into this atmosphere of com- 
promises, of shiftiness, of uncertainty, the 
voice of science comes with the word, 
"Nothing is worth while but the truth; 
make no compromises with yourself, ac- 
cept no half-truth ; do not delude yourself 
into thinking you are acting from one 
motive when you are really prompted by 
another ; do not lie to yourself; if you 
are not strong enough to be righteous, at 
least be intellectually sincere." If, among 
the distractions of our lives, we are to give 
91 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAYER 

any opportunity to the inner spirit to be 
heard, this invariable, uncompromising 
attitude to truth is an essential. 

In bringing this message to the individ- 
ual soul the science of our day is sound- 
ing the highest ethical note of which men 
are capable; and he who disciplines his 
conscience to heed it is already giving 
heed to the highest spiritual consciousness 
into which it is his privilege to enter : he 
is entering already into communion with 
Him who is the author of his spiritual life. 

And, whether communion with Him 
means a direct communion with a personal 
spirit or whether it means a communion 
with our better selves, it comes in either 
case through the medium of our personal 
spiritual consciousness. He who will know 
Him must first know himself, must first 
face fearlessly and fairly the questions of 
his own soul, must have so developed his 
heart and mind to higher things that he 
may have spiritual consciousness, and a 
92 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRAYER 

communion with the spirit which is in 
every man. It is the knowledge of this 
inner spirit which shall lead us surely to 
higher spiritual truth. 

It seems, therefore, clear to me that, in 
the sense in which I have used the words, 
all serious men, whatever their intellectual 
training, must pray, not, perhaps, for mate- 
rial help, not in expectation that the laws 
of the universe shall be changed at their 
request, not even primarily for strength 
to live rightly and justly, but as the su- 
preme effort of the human soul to know 
God. And whether that which we call 
prayer be a direct communion with Him 
as our Heavenly Father, or whether it be a 
communion with our higher consciousness 
which is in touch with Him, in either case 
the time can never come when a human 
soul will not rise from such communion 
purified and strengthened, with new hope 
and new patience, and with a more serene 
view of his own duty and his own future. 
93 



OUGHT A RELIGIOUS MAN 
TO JOIN A CHURCH? 



OUGHT A RELIGIOUS MAN 
TO JOIN A CHURCH? 

*' One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and 
Father of all." — St. Paul. 

The history of the Christian Church and 
of the process by which it has come in our 
day to be represented by almost countless 
sects holding widely varying religious be- 
liefs is a part of the story of the rise and 
progress of our race. Starting with a small 
group of devoted and religious men who 
represented no compact administration, 
the church gradually assumed a complex 
organization. With the conversion of Con- 
stantine in the fourth century Christianity 
became the accepted religion of the most 
powerful nation in the world. Gradually 
the Christian Church drew into its fingers 
the reins of civil government, and its 
97 



OUGHT A RELIGIOUS MAN 

organization changed character to enable 
it to deal with these new powers. For a 
thousand years it ruled the civilized world. 
Finally came a reaction. Men came back 
to the idea of earlier Christianity that it 
was the business of the church to concern 
itself with religion, not with civil rule. 
Out of the conflict which this reaction 
brought were born other forms of religious 
organization antagonistic to the power 
and influence of the mother church. This 
differentiation into sects has gone on until 
to-day the Christian Church is represented 
in the world by so many sects that it 
would be difficult to name them. They 
vary in creed from a strict and formal ad- 
herence to the authority of the church and 
its dogma to an association of men and 
women bound by no formal creed and 
associated with the purpose of the advance- 
ment of religion by their common efforts. 
In its most highly organized branches the 
Christian Church to-day still claims the 
98 



TO JOIN A CHURCH? 

right to rule and govern the world. In its 
youngest and most liberal divisions it does 
not even ask the acceptance of a creed. 
From amongst all these churches one may 
perhaps find none which agrees wholly 
with his own views, but he may certainly 
find one which approximates to them, and 
withal a very large liberty of belief and of 
action. A religious man — one who be- 
lieves that religion is a life, not a profes- 
sion, one who seeks to nourish in his own 
heart the things that make for truth and 
justice and mercy — such a one will nat- 
urally be concerned as to whether he 
ought to become a member of one of 
these organizations. Will his spiritual life 
be quickened thereby? Will it afford 
him an atmosphere in which the energy 
of the soul will be developed along true 
lines? Will it help to bring his life in 
touch with the religious life of other men 
so that both they and he may be helped ? 
Is it his duty to join a church ? 
99 



OUGHT A RELIGIOUS MAN 

It is evident to any student of the his- 
tory of the church, or to any observer of 
the organizations which exist among us to- 
day calling themselves churches, that they 
have the advantages and the weaknesses 
of other human organizations. Much of 
what the churches do commends religion 
to men ; a large part of that which they 
do has but little effect either for or against 
religion ; and a considerable part of what 
the churches do unfortunately discredits 
religion. 

If religion is a life, it is a life springing 
up in the individual soul. It belongs es- 
sentially and primarily to the individual. 
There is perhaps no other form of human 
development which lends itself less easily 
to the purposes and the machinery of an 
organization than that divine life in the 
individual human soul which we call reli- 
gion. This life in the soul and its develop- 
ment is essentially individualistic. It may 
be quickened or refreshed or repressed by 

100 



TO JOIN A CHURCH? 

the contact with other individuals, but it 
does not lend itself to organization; it 
cannot be promoted by administration. 
And this has always been one of the weak- 
nesses and the dangers of religious organi- 
zations : that the machinery of organiza- 
tions, once provided, has in nearly all cases 
been turned to the advancement of some- 
thing other than religion. It is very diffi- 
cult to use the power of an organization 
so as to develop in the hearts of the indi- 
viduals comprising it mercy and love and 
reverence ; but it is very easy to put the 
organization back of a dogma which 
touches the imagination or the interest of 
those concerned. From the very nature 
of religion and from the qualities inherent 
in human nature the organization called 
the church has lent itself far more easily 
to dogma than to love, far more readily 
to theology than to religion, far more suc- 
cessfully to the upbuilding of the power 
of the organization than to the advance- 

lOI 



OUGHT A RELIGIOUS MAN 

ment of truth. Individual religious life 
was what Jesus sought to kindle. He 
originated no organization; though he 
criticised the church of his day, he never 
left it. His mission was to lead men to 
God so that they might lead their own 
Hfe with Him. It was inevitable, perhaps, 
that amongst his followers should be de- 
veloped in course of time a compact, effec- 
tive organization. But this organization 
could not take the place of the spiritual 
leadership of a truly religious soul, and it 
lent itself only too well to human ambi- 
tion and human vanity. To wrest from its 
hands the power of civil government took 
centuries of strife and cost countless lives. 
This battle has been fought and settled in 
most civilized countries. Where the ques- 
tion still survives it marks the recrudes- 
cence of a mediaeval conflict in the minds 
of men: a conflict which will in the end 
terminate only in one way. To-day, to 
the great benefit of both the state and the 

102 



TO JOIN A CHURCH? 

church, our two most complex human 
organizations, the latter no longer claims 
the right to interfere in civil government. 
To-day no man will think of the church, 
at least in our United States of America, 
except in its religious purpose. 

That the church is not indispensable to 
the perpetuation and progress of religion 
seems clear. Its inefficiency as a religious 
agency is the most evident part of its his- 
tory. It does not seem impossible that 
religion among men may some day be 
so developed that the church as a formal 
organization may be transformed ; it may 
come to occupy toward theology some 
such attitude as the Chemical Society oc- 
cupies toward chemistry, or some other 
agency may take its place. 

Yet the imperfections and limitations 
to which I have alluded make no an- 
swer to the questions which I have asked. 
The fact that the church has been in many 
respects cleared of the superstitions of a 
103 



OUGHT A RELIGIOUS MAN 

thousand years, that it no longer claims, in 
many of its branches at least, the obedience 
of an absolute authority, that it admits mis- 
takes and weaknesses, is an evidence of 
increasing sincerity and of a higher fitness. 
Furthermore, when the man of scientific 
training considers the organization of the 
church as it stands to-day, he will, if he fol- 
low the scientific method, be less interested 
in the historical consistency of the claims 
of the church than he will in that which 
the church at present represents. For ex- 
ample : it would be a difficult matter to 
trace a logical connection between the sim- 
ple teaching of Jesus and the claims of the 
Roman Pontiff to temporal sovereignty 
over certain sections of Italy. Such an in- 
quiry is interesting and of value ; but it is 
in a certain sense academic, and ought not 
for a moment to blind the eyes of an intel- 
ligent man to the fact that the Roman 
Catholic Church is to-day one of the great 
organized moral forces which make for law 
104 



TO JOIN A CHURCH? 

and order and righteousness. One cannot 
disregard, if he would, the place which the 
church has come to play in our larger social 
and political life. And this is a considera- 
tion which very young men are inclined to 
place in altogether too small a perspective. 
Few of us are commissioned to reorganize 
society, or to recast its social, religious, or 
political divisions. For most men the great- 
est usefulness lies, as does the greatest 
happiness, in doing their work in the world 
in harmony with the organizations which 
society has slowly adopted, and in sup- 
porting through these such reforms as 
commend themselves to their judgment. 

That which we call Christianity to-day 
means different things in its organized 
form in different countries. It no longer 
means, and has never meant since the 
church became an organization, a true re- 
flection of the simple life and high spiritual 
ideals of its founder. Christianity, even in 
its organized form, is no longer a creed, 
105 



OUGHT A RELIGIOUS MAN 

but the visible expression of the gradually 
growing, gradually advancing conscience 
of the race; and as such it is the product 
of the labor of religious men both in and 
out of the church. Darwin and Spencer 
and Tyndall have helped to mould the 
church of to-day no less truly than Luther 
and Zwingle and Wesley. It is true that 
the expression of the spiritual ideals of an 
age through an organization will always 
fall short of those ideals in the thoughts 
of the great leaders. This inertia is charac- 
teristic of all organizations and need cause 
no surprise or resentment. Organizations 
never lead, men lead. Religious organiza- 
tions will always be slower than religious 
leaders in their appreciation of truth, but 
this does not in the least detract from the 
fact that such organizations offer to us men, 
with our complex human nature, the way 
to a better fellowship and a deeper inspira- 
tion. 

There is one impression which is wide- 
io6 



TO JOIN A CHURCH? 

spread among young men, and especially 
among those who have been brought up 
in Protestant homes, which has seemed to 
me to work great harm in dealing with 
this matter. That is the impression that 
by remaining outside of formal church 
connection a man in some way escapes a 
certain religious and moral responsibility 
which he incurs as a member of a church. 
Nothing could be farther from the truth. 
All men are religious men in the sense that 
the divine energy flows into all their hearts. 
All men are under the same obligation to 
turn this energy to the ends for which it is 
meant : that is, to the growth in their hearts 
of love and truth and mercy. All human 
beings are members of that invisible church 
which is sustained by Him in whom we 
live and move and have our being. In 
other words, all men are under the same 
obligation to be religious. To excuse one's 
self for doing certain things because one 
is not a member of a church is the veriest 
107 



OUGHT A RELIGIOUS MAN 

hypocrisy. The obligation to be chaste, 
fair-minded, unselfish, generous, reverent, 
helpful, is just the same for each one of 
you whether you belong to a formal reli- 
gious organization or not. Do not hide be- 
hind any such weak lie as to suppose you 
absolve yourself from your obligations or 
your relations to the infinite Maker of the 
universe, or that you can escape the inev- 
itable working of His laws by declining to 
join an organization which your fellow-men 
have set up for the study and development 
of these relations. The obligations and the 
opportunities of the reHgious life are upon 
you by the very fact of your existence. 
By joining a church you neither increase 
nor diminish these obUgations ; but you 
may affect profoundly thereby your ability 
to respond to the obligations, to improve 
the opportunities and to appreciate the joys. 
There is, too, one side of religion to 
which the church organization ministers 
which the scientific man is inclined to over- 
io8 



TO JOIN A CHURCH? 

look, or at least to rate below its true 
value, and that is the church's ministry to 
our emotional nature. However highly we 
may value reason, however indispensable 
it may be in our guidance through the 
world, it is after all only a part of our being. 
The best things of our civilization, religion, 
literature, art, even philosophy, spring not 
alone from our reason, but rise in large 
measure from that deep undercurrent of 
our being in whose sweep is carried along 
our loves and our hates, our hopes and our 
fears, our aspirations and our longings. 
There are tender memories and associations 
which cling about the offices and service 
of the church and minister to the best that 
is in us. The familiar text, the old hymn, 
the noble words of Jesus carry with them 
memories and longings which are tender 
and true. These emotions are not religion, 
and we go far astray when we mistake 
them for it ; but none the less they form 
a real and true part of religion, and their 
109 



OUGHT A RELIGIOUS MAN 

drawings are toward those things which 
make for the divine life. This is the im- 
mortal office of the Christian Church, that 
it hands on these traditions, these hopes, 
these aspirations, from generation to gen- 
eration. To lose this fellowship is to lose 
much. 

On the other hand there are, I appre- 
hend, few men of scientific training who 
can subscribe sincerely to belief in the 
creed or in the articles of faith of what 
are called the orthodox Christian churches. 
Even the fact that this profession of faith 
is becoming in the church itself less im- 
portant, that it is in fact practically ig- 
nored by a large proportion of the clergy 
and laity, does not make the matter of 
membership in the church easier to such 
men. All their training in science is against 
that attitude of mind which permits a man 
or an organization to hold on to a creed or 
to a formula in which they no longer be- 
lieve. The impression it makes upon their 

I 10 



TO JOIN A CHURCH? 

minds is very much as if the astronomer 
should try to fit the modern observations 
to the Ptolemaic astronomy. Such a posi- 
tion is directly in contravention of that in- 
tellectual sincerity which is the basis of all 
true scientific progress. To scientific men, 
by the very nature of their education, belief 
must go hand in hand with reason and 
right thinking if belief is to be respected. 
For this reason they find it clearly impos- 
sible to join a church if that act requires 
the profession of a creed in which they do 
not beHeve. Nor do they feel sufficiently 
skilled in metaphysics to decide how far 
the different churches may go in the nom- 
inal support of a creed in which they do 
not fully believe. The whole idea of a 
creed as a test of religious fellowship seems 
to them indefensible and artificial. It is a 
part of the science of religion — and for 
them it seems generally a false science — 
not a part of religion itself 

And yet, as one recalls his own life he 
III 



OUGHT A RELIGIOUS MAN 

realizes that what the church has brought 
to the world has been largely independent 
of and apart from these personal tests. As 
one looks back on the associations of his 
life, as he reads the noble words of the 
church service and of the church prayers, 
he finds that his heart stirs with the mem- 
ory. There are few words in our language 
so closely interwoven with the best human 
aspirations, with the sincerest spiritual out- 
goings, as those services of the church 
which we associate with the solemn acts 
of life. What other words have brought 
comfort to so many hearts as the triumph- 
ant passages of the service for the dead? 
How it binds all men together to believe 
in one faith, one baptism, one hope. Shall 
the man of science deny himself and his 
children the joy and the comfort of this 
fellowship because he cannot subscribe to 
the creed which the church prescribes, a 
creed which as time goes on sits more 
and more lightly on the consciences of the 

I 12 



TO JOIN A CHURCH? 

leaders of the church ? It is this question 
which the religious man of scientific train- 
ing and habits of thought finds it difficult 
to answer, and the nature of the answer will 
depend not alone on the intelligence and 
intellectual honesty of the man, but also 
on his general philosophy of life and the 
part which his emotions play in that life. 
Here is Louis Pasteur's answer: — 

" There are two men in each one of us : 
the scientist, he who starts with a clear 
field and desires to rise to the knowledge 
of nature through observation, experimen- 
tation, and reasoning, and the man of sen- 
timent, the man of belief, the man who 
mourns his dead children and who cannot, 
alas, prove that he will see them again, 
but who hopes that he will, and lives in 
that hope, the man who will not die like 
a vibrio, but who feels that the force that 
is within him cannot die. The two do- 
mains are distinct, and woe to him who 
tries to let them trespass on each other in 
113 



OUGHT A RELIGIOUS MAN 

the so imperfect state of human know- 
ledge." Science, he said, should not con- 
cern itself with the philosophical conse- 
quences of its discoveries. He calmly went 
his way in the full liberty of science, and 
yet living and dying in the comfort of 
that faith which he had learned in boy- 
hood, and without those conflicts of the 
soul through which so many of his scien- 
tific brethren had to go. 

A very different attitude was that of 
Thomas Huxley. To a mind of his quality 
there could be no such separation between 
the thinking of a man as a scientist and as 
a reh'gious man. The assumptions involved 
in the dogmas of the church aroused not 
only his suspicions but all his anger at 
what seemed to him intellectual dishon- 
esty. "I will," said he, "be satisfied with 
no half truth, I will believe no lie." And 
he went out to fight what he believed to 
be the falsehoods of religious creeds with 
as dauntless a spirit as ever sent crusader 
114 



TO JOIN A CHURCH? 

against a Moslem lance. For him to have 
accepted Pasteur's attitude would have 
been treason to the best that was in him. 
He died, as he had lived, outside a formal 
church organization, although he always 
gladly sought for his family and his chil- 
dren the associations which the church 
offered. 

The examples of these two men are 
worth our study, for both were great souls, 
both thought deeply concerning the prob- 
lems of the universe. Each answered the 
question of his religious fellowship and 
his religious faith simply, sincerely, de- 
voutly. Both were, to my thinking, reli- 
gious men. 

And this brings me back to the word 
which I said at the beginning. Each man 
must answer in his own way the question 
of his religious fellowship. Faith is itself 
a great spiritual experience. To believe 
truly and sincerely in a man, in a princi- 
ple, in God, is alone a great inspiration. 
115 



OUGHT A RELIGIOUS MAN 

If you find in your religious faith that 
which brings you comfort and help and 
serenity of life, rejoice in it, whether you 
find it in one church or another, whether 
you be Protestant or Catholic, Episcopalian 
or Unitarian, Baptist or Christian Scientist. 
If you find your religious life quickened 
by association with some body of profess- 
ing Christians, do not let any formal creed 
stand in the way of your fellowship with 
them. There are few men whose spiritual 
senses will not be quickened, whose aspi- 
rations will not be raised, whose religious 
ideals will not be ripened by the fellow- 
ship with his brethren which the Christian 
Church offers. There are few men who are 
not the better for a connection with the 
church and for service in it. But in as- 
suming such connection do not imagine 
that such membership constitutes religion; 
make it clear to yourself why you seek 
and remain in such a relation, and be sure 
that it means a gain in your religious life. 
ii6 



TO JOIN A CHURCH ? 

And be sure of one thing more : no man 
is going to gain in his spiritual life by ig- 
noring the great problems of the universe 
which lie before him, or by professing to 
believe that thing which in his own soul 
he doubts. There are many paths by 
which a human soul comes to a high reli- 
gious life. Some of them lead through 
suffering, through service, through faith, 
through doubt, through patience; but 
there is none that leads through insincerity 
and cowardice. 



117 



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